May The Best Team Win – Episode 24

Gerard Fay © Neil and Rachel meet outside pub Illustration: Gerard Fay

The following Wednesday night, they all gathered at the Flying Duck.

It was great to have Brad and Maeve back with them, but Rachel had enjoyed the evening at Priscilla’s more than she had expected.

Priscilla had been a gracious hostess and, although she’d put them through their paces, Rachel had learned some useful trivia and she’d enjoyed Neil’s company.

She looked around the room; at the ducks and agricultural implements and the friendly faces.

Frenton was a quiet place, but Rachel liked it that way.

The young people sometimes moaned that nothing happened, but it was a happy community.

“Here you go.” Neil passed her a glass and she took a sip of Prosecco.

“Thanks, Neil,” she said. “That’s perfect.”

He grinned and sat down beside her. Rachel was pleased to have the chance to chat with him again.

“How was your break? I hope you had a fabulous time!” Rachel remarked to Maeve, who came over to collect some empty glasses.

Maeve beamed at Rachel.

“Oh, it was wonderful, thanks, love. It’s so long since we’ve had a holiday.”

“I’m so glad to…”

“Service!” There was a shout, as a fist thudded on to the bar.

Maeve raised an eyebrow. She gathered up the glasses.

It was Grayson Franks and his face was black as thunder.

“I wonder what could be the matter with him,” Rachel said. “He doesn’t often come to the pub.”

Grayson was a big, quiet man. He seemed fairly shy, but Rachel didn’t know him well. Only that he had a wife and two children.

She turned back to Neil and saw he was staring at Grayson, a frown on his forehead.

“No,” he replied. “He’s not a drinking man. He usually spends evenings with his family.”

“I always thought he was a quiet type.”

“He is,” Neil muttered, more to himself than to her. “I think his wife’s ill at the moment.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

Neil turned back to her and smiled. The edges of his eyes crinkled behind his glasses. He had a kind face.

“You’re always so sympathetic, Rachel,” he said. “It’s one of the many things I like about you.”

She blushed and watched as Grayson downed a double whisky, then banged his glass on the bar, demanding another.

Rachel saw Maeve shake her head, but she didn’t looked worried.

Maeve was used to dealing with all sorts in her line of work.

“I hope Dawn and Graham get here soon,” Rachel said, glancing at her phone. “We can’t do the quiz with only half a team.”

“They’ll be here.” Neil smiled. “I don’t think they’ve ever missed a quiz night in the whole of the last five years.

“Still, I reckon the two of us would make a pretty good team.”

Rachel felt a strange sensation. She wasn’t sure whether it was what he’d said or the way he was looking at her.

“Do you think tonight’s the night we’ll beat the Master Minds?” she asked, keeping her voice as light.

Neil shrugged.

“It would be lovely if we did – I know you’re very keen to beat Priscilla.

“But, I don’t begrudge her victories. She knows a great deal and I just enjoy the challenge and an evening with friends.”

Rachel gave him an appraising glance. He seemed to understand everyone.

It must have been hard for him living alone all these years. Perhaps, they all ought to make more effort to look after him.

“I want another!”

Rachel, along with everyone else, looked up as Grayson banged his glass back down again.

His face was crimson and his gaze unfocused. He’d clearly downed a few while she’d been talking to Neil.

Maeve folded her arms.

“I think you’ve had enough now, Grayson, love,” she said firmly.

Grayson leaned across the bar towards her.

“Don’t tell me what to do. Get me a drink.”

“I think you need to leave.”

Rachel suddenly noticed Ollie, who had been walking across the room in his coat and hat, heading for the door.

He’d stopped, however, and turned back.

Grayson pulled himself upright and glared at him.

“Why, you little…”

Grayson was much bigger than the slim lad, despite the fact that Ollie was tall for his age, but he didn’t budge.

“No-one talks to my mum like that,” Ollie said, jutting out his chin.

Grayson lunged at Ollie, but the lad skipped neatly out of the way and the older man grabbed at a stool to stop himself falling.

Rachel looked around for Brad, but there was no sign of him.

“Come here!” Grayson drew himself up.

Grayson really was a large man and Rachel felt suddenly afraid.

She bit her lip and wondered if she could do anything, but Neil rose to his feet.

“That’s enough, Grayson,” he said, approaching him, just as he lunged for Ollie.

This time, Grayson did lose his balance but Neil managed to grab him and keep him upright.

Neil was much stronger that Rachel had realised.

Neil put an arm around the other man’s shoulder.

“How’s Nicola?” he asked quietly. “I guess things aren’t too good.”

Grayson’s face crumpled and he rubbed a hand across his eyes.

“She’s in the hospital,” he whispered.

Neil shook his head.

“I’m really sorry to hear that. That’s tough. Come to mine for coffee and we’ll talk.”

Rachel watched as the two men left, and her mouth fell open.

It seemed that she would have to review her opinion of two more people.

To be continued…

An error has occurred while loading your details. Please click the following link to try again - if the issue persists, please don't hesitate to contact us. Try again by refreshing the page.